Man’s Search for Meaning

I got curious about this one after seeing Austin’s post. Good read. Author Viktor Frankl says:

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life–daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

This reminds me of a favorite blog post I came across several years ago: You don’t need a plan, you need skills and a problem (original blog now defunct?).

Screw your plans. Work on your skills. Apply them to a problem that is biting you. Flush and repeat until people believe you had a plan.

I love the sense of *action* that Frankl gets at. Meaning doesn’t happen to you or arrive through talk or navel-gazing, it’s something you do. You have to scratch around a bit. It’s part of a process, which itself is part of the fun, if you’re doing it right: Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. Doesn’t mean it’s easy. Opportunity comes dressed in overalls, as they say. You’ll have to spend some time groping, listening, testing, accepting, discarding. And if you’re doing it right, it won’t feel good a lot of time: you can tell if it’s your own plan by how lost you feel.

Doesn’t mean you have to be super-choosy (although Family. Friends. Health. Work. Pick any three is helpful to keep in mind). Be careful what parts of yourself you give up on: “You can cut off a couple passions and only focus on one, but after a while, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain.” And you have to keep in mind that, if you do ever succeed, having found your life’s purpose/calling/vocation/mission, it’s not going to extend your life and not necessarily make you *happy*. One year’s answer might not do for another. And by the way, “Don’t let yo’ happiness make somebody sad!

Man’s Search for Meaning